Jonathan Bairstow has accumulated 1,118 Test runs in 2016 so far     Getty Images
Jonathan Bairstow has accumulated 1,118 Test runs in 2016 so far Getty Images (file photo)

England cricket has grown from strength to strength since the departure of the likes of Andrew Strauss, Graeme Swann and Jonathan Trott. The influx of talent has never been a problem for national selectors with County cricket churning out players day-in-day-out. Batsmen like Alastair Cook, Joe Root, and Alex Hales have taken over the top order responsibilities without any fuzz. Cook has continued creating record after record, while Root has been relentlessly eyeing his captain’s milestones. One of the major issue for any Test is finding a dependable wicketkeeper batsmen, and England was no different. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs England, 1st Test match at Rajkot

England has since the dawn of 2010’s have tried as many as three-keeper’ in Matt Prior, Jonathan Bairstow and Jos Buttler. Prior played the most part of the early 2010s, without any competition or opposition from anyone in the Test arena. Prior was getting old and his batting suffered, and with the ICC WT20 and ICC Cricket World Cup just a few years away, England selectors were on the outlook for a new and more equipped batsmen who could serve as a wicketkeeper.

Somewhere in the county circuit a young lad named Jonathan Bairstow was making a lot of noise with the bat scoring runs at will for his side Yorkshire. By the start of 2011 Bairstow cemented his place as the number one keeper batsmen for his county and was highly debated for a national call-up.

Bairstow was tried in the One-Day and T20 where is excelled in his debut series and was soon given a Test place.

Initial Failure:

Bairstow was called in for the 3-Test series versus West Indies. With Prior in the side playing as wicketkeeper Bairstow was roped in as a specialised batsman. Bairstow did not have a best of start making just 38 runs in the series at 12.66 and was dropped soon after. Bairstow Test debut start with a duck alongside his name in his very second Test innings. Bairstow was dropped from the South Africa series but was always in contention for a place in the side.

Bairstow was roped in for the third Test against South Africa after Kevin Pietersen was unceremoniously dropped. Bairstow showed his first sign of being a lower order leader, guiding his team from 54 for 4 to 264 for 8. Bairstow showcased his fluent batting style and mesmerised the liked of former England captain Michael Vaughan during his knock of 95 runs. Bairstow continued to milk runs in the second innings making a quick-fire 54 off 47 balls.

Jonny Bairstow struck a magnificent 95 vs South Africa at Lord's     Getty Images (File Photo)
Jonny Bairstow struck a magnificent 95 vs South Africa at Lord’s Getty Images (File Photo)

Bairstow after South Africa series was kept in and out of the England with Prior keeping wickets and James Taylor being taken in as a more specialised batsman. Bairstow played sporadic games in the series against India and New Zealand (both away). Bairstow was given a long run against home series versus New Zealand

The Ashes disaster x 2 :

After successfully cementing his place in the ODI format for England, Bairstow was finally called upon to play his first ever Ashes series in 2013 at home. Bairstow did not set the world on fire but displayed some steadiness.

Bairstow struck a composed 67 off 146, which enabled his team, cross the 350 runs mark, which was of great importance as England won the match by a massive his 347-run margin. Bairstow did not contribute much after getting out just as he looked set.

Bairstow was persisted and taken into the following Ashes series in Australia. After a poor performance by the England batsmen against one man army in Mitchell Johnson, Bairstow was given a place in the fourth and the final Test at Melbourne and Sydney respectively.

Bairstow looked completely out of sort facing Johnson and co amassing just 49 runs.

Nothing much can be said about both Prior and Bairstow who were massive flops in Ashes 2013-14 or better known as the Mitchell Johnson series. With the former announcing his retirement Bairstow was next in line to take the wicketkeeping spot his own, saw competition from a certain Jos Buttler.

Buttler from his very first Test was scoring runs at the rate of knots against teams like India, West Indies and New Zealand. Bairstow, on the other hand, went back to playing county cricket for Yorkshire in an attempt to resurrect his career.

Roadway to Test recall: Bairstow after getting the nod from Yorkshire to play as per his liking stockpiled runs match-after-match. Bairstow accumulated as many as 1,108 First-Class runs at a near Bradmansque average of 92.33. Bairstow also accounted for a 366-run mammoth stand with Tim Bresnan to record fifth highest record stands for his county Yorkshire. Bairstow a more regular in the ODI squad started hitting form at the very right time with Ashes 2015 in sight.

Buttler s form with the bat was on the decline and was unable to keep his place in the Test side after Bairstow s record hitting season with Yorkshire. Bairstow was now playing his third Ashes series in as many years.

Bairstow played only 3-matches in the series as a non-designated wicketkeeper . Bairstow knocked off a fierce 74-runs off 105 balls went a long way in securing a victory in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge.

Soon After England travelled to the UAE to play 3-Test series against Pakistan. England were handed 2-0 mauling but it displayed batting prowess of Bairstow at par with top-level cricketers.

Record crushing 2016:

Come 2016, Bairstow reinvented himself into a beast of a player with the bat and a more competent keeper behind the stumps. Michael Vaughan has often criticised Bairstow for his sloppy work with the gloves but this season has seen a turn-around of sorts.

Bairstow was selected for the South African series where he flourished like never before securing a career saving maiden Test hundred. Coming out to bat at 196 for 6 Bairstow should grit and determination with the bat in the first innings of the Durban Test, apart from playing a blitzing knock in the second innings.

Bairstow secured his first Tes t ton at the start of 2016    Getty Images (file photo)
Bairstow secured his first Test ton at the start of 2016 vs South Africa Getty Images (file photo)

The second Test at Cape Town saw records being smashed left, right and centre with Ben Stokes going bonkers with the bat. Witness to this mayhem and partner in crime was Bairstow making a 191-ball 150 himself. Bairstow stockpiled 359 runs in the series securing his place in the side for a long span of time.

Bairstow continued to knock off easy runs against Sri Lanka at home smashing his second and third Test ton in the same series itself, including a squash buckling at 167 at Lords.

Bairstow during this time worked with specialist wicketkeeping coach Bruce French, himself a former England gloveman. Bairstow also participated in sessions with Newcastle United football club s goalkeeping coaches where he worked on balance and shape of the body.

Bairstow was in the form of his life scoring runs whenever his team required him to do so. Bairstow made a valiant 48 in the second innings. Bairstow continued to score vital 30-40s throughout the series, which was evidence to his improving temperament and composure.

Former players have commented about Bairstow that he continues to give his wicket away in a moment of absolute silliness time and again.

Bairstow in the Pakistan series compiled 366 runs at 52.28 with 4-robust half-centuries beside his name.

England next assignment was against Bangladesh in Bangladesh where both teams met in a 2-Test series, which was a resounding couple of games. The series ended in a 1-1 draw but displayed quite a number of glaring holes in England set up.

Bairstow against the likes of Mehedi Hasan and Shakib Al Hasan exhibited his unnerving character and determined batting approach against the spinning ball. Bairstow looked comfortable and played stubborn knock in the first Test at Chittagong.

Bairstow was the second highest run scorer (126) for England ahead of the likes of Cook, Joe Root and Gary Balance which only proves his credentials even more.

So far in 2016, Bairstow is the only batsman to have gone past 1,000 run mark in Tests, averaging 74.57 with the strike-rate of 61.73. Bairstow is also at the top this year in terms of centuries and fifties with three tons and five half-centuries.

    AFP
Jonny Bairstow will have a lot on his plate on India tour AFP

The Indian challenge:

Bairstow indeed is a very crucial member of the England touring party when they take on India. After already experienced spin friendly conditions in Bangladesh the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja will be a herculean task to take on. Playing Ashwin on Indian conditions is nothing less than trying to walk on fire barefooted.

Bairstow technique will not only be tested but be challenged with every delivery. Bairstow has time and again rescued England from a soup and will be expected to do the same if the situation demands. From being equipped with good footwork and a steady head, Bairstow will be asked to bear the humid conditions which will have its toil.

(Vishal Mehra is a reporter at CricketCountry, currently tripping on #BlackMirror and #TheFlashS03, enjoying his weekly dose of anime, monthly viewing of sitcoms, daily playing cricket once every few hours, and also venturing into table-tennis. Twitter handle is https://twitter.com/capturethecatch)